How does one even begin to review this movie? It’s like reviewing the ABC’s or the Green Lantern oath or the Konami up up down down etc code. Star Wars is an integral part of our culture, language, idioms, and even philosophy, whatever apocryphal horrors inflicted on the franchise by its very maker, which sounds like an oxymoron and it is. I will endeavor to view it as a first-comer. Who knows what I’ll find.
The film captures you from the beginning with the 20 Century Fox fanfare and then explodes into the inimitable John Williams Star Wars theme from which the cool font heads into the distance and the written prologue scrolls up serial style from bottom to top. This alone convinces the viewer that this film is large scale and not to be taken lightly. This is serious stuff. Or it was until Episode I.
Making a prequel is a hard job not to mention a prequel trilogy. Everyone knows what’s going to happen eventually so the only amount of mystery and suspense that is allowed is figuring out how it all happened. The last film revealed the mystery crushing existence of the contrived “midi-chlorians” a sort of “Force inducing organism” present in the bodies of those who would become Jedi. After all the hints, and mystery surrounding the Force, to have it revealed to be a sort of symbiotic disease was a bit of a let down. Would midi-chlorian injections make anyone a Jedi? Is a midi-chrlorian bomb going to be dropped on everyone in Episode VII hence the “Force Awakens?” It was also revealed that Anakin, like Jesus, was born as a result of immaculate conception.
Jake Lloyd, while not being overly skilled an actor, at least walked and talked the part. Here, as the story has moved on 10 years since Episode I, we get an older, taller, and more handsome Anakin Skywalker who is impulsive, arrogant, and unprofessional. We know this isn’t going to end well. He is also quite moody and given to bursts of fits of complaining. The attempts of the other characters, Senator Padme’ and Master Obi-Wan Kenobi to cull him back to humanity at tedious, as are all such dealings with difficult people. Usually the difficult people aren’t the ones we have to watch for nearly 2 and a half hours.
The script dialogue is also lost the charm which made the earlier Star Wars films and the Indiana Jones franchise so charming and dashing. I seem to remember Roger Ebert commenting that everyone seemed to be speaking Basic English. So we know that Anakin and Padme are going to get together but they could have made it a bit more romantic and a bit less contrived. Han and Leia had the charming antagonistic relationship which eventually blossomed into an uneasy romance into which Luke was thrown until realizing his relationship with her. Here, the two have nothing to do but to complain about the risks and the inappropriateness of their relationship taking about how this or that kiss was a mistake. It’s so tedious and so bad so that when they arbitrarily confess their love for one another, it really seems so contrived that I remember throwing up my hands in the air when watching it for the first time (and knocking over my brother’s popcorn).
The film isn’t without its nice points. We meet Jango Fett, Boba’s sort of father, (well they have the same genes anyhow), who, like the cool Captain Panaka of the first film, is way underused here. Obi Wan’s pal Dex, an affable four-armed cook working in a sort of ‘50’s diner which could have been featured in Lucas’ much better film, American Graffiti, the Roman Colosseum-like execution ceremony with three deadly beasts prepared for each victim, and the eponymous Clones, whose gunships and heavy duty blasters are impressive as is as their all-out battle against the formidable battle droid army which makes the rather pathetic fuzzy war at the end of Episode I pale in comparison. Senator Palpatine’s machinations to extend his political powers as Supreme Chancellor are very slick to behold. There’s a lot of lightsaber fighting going on here and I was loathe to see “Jedi Masters” being blown away by droids and bounty hunters. I thought fully trained Jedi were supposed to be stronger than that.
Also Yoda (and R2-D2) demonstrate powers which technically would have helped them a great deal in the other films if so used. I’m gonna to go out on a limb and say that these powers are a bit of a misfit in the greater context of the Saga. There’s a nice ominous scene which features prototypes for later iconic elements of the Original Trilogy. We get a real sense of the darker direction the next film will take. These scenes take some of the sting out of the sore thumb that is Anakin Skywalker and his terribly written love story with Padme (Natalie Portman does her best with what’s she’s been given) but not enough, sadly for me to recommend this flawed film.